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What Brands Can Learn From These Viral Hashtags

There are lessons behind that hashtag. We’re looking at three viral hashtag stories and revealing the takeaways for brands behind each…

Hashtags can be a powerful force. They can unite a community, spark a movement around a cause, create an international inside-joke, and call out brands’ major mistakes. They’ve become a second language to young consumers, who use them to spread their opinions and broadcast their creativity. Though many brands are still learning the lessons of how to hashtag right, every brand can learn a lesson or two from the kinds of hashtags that capture Millennials’ and teens’ attention. Here are three recent trending tags, and their biggest takeaways:


Some Millennials are letting the world know that they might not look exactly like their Tinder profiles. After Someecards asked followers to show how they look in their Tinder pics versus how they look when swiping through Tinder, they received some hilarious responses of perfect profiles versus double chins and cat cuddling—which then became news stories all over the web. The #OnTinderAtTinder isn’t the only hashtag allowing young consumers to laugh at their social media multiple personalities. The Snapchat versus Instagram meme compares flawless (Instagram) versus foolish (Snapchat) photos and images to turn the main uses of the platforms they use into a massive inside joke.

The #Lesson: Millennials are aware of Social Media Illusion, and they’re beginning to pull the curtain back on the apparent perfection that they broadcast on some networks. (They’re also becoming more attracted to the platforms that allow them to be more themselves.) Someecards played right into this trend, encouraging followers to poke fun at themselves, laughing with them rather than at them. Though many criticize Millennials for their social media behavior, they are self-aware. They’re also massively adept at creating the right persona for the right platform, and are very accustomed to branding themselves online.


An 11-year-old girl has started a hashtag movement that has quickly caught the world’s attention. Marley Dias says she was “was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” and decided to create a book drive to collect books featuring protagonists who look like her. The #1000BlackGirlBooks hashtag is encouraging donations of books where black girls are the main characters, and Dias aims to collect 1000 by February 1st. Her campaign has earned kudos and backing from major book publishers, and she’s been appearing on news shows promoting her cause while her hashtag is spreading on social media.

The #Lesson: Lesson number one for brands is clear: though “diversity” might have become a buzzword, young consumers still aren’t seeing enough of themselves reflected back to them in the media they consume. They want more.

In addition, the recent wave of activism among Millennials is a combination of their online influence igniting their offline actions, but many criticize the generation for their “slacktivism” approach, assuming that hashtags and internet chatter doesn’t really make a difference. But a recent study found that “online engagement is key to turning a protest into a social movement,” and prolongs the life of an issue. Its powerful influence comes from the substantial number of social media users interested in social causes, as well as the viral awareness a single post can create among millions. Clearly young consumers today are growing up with an awareness of the power a social media movement can have


Oh, Bill. What started as a stick figure meme Facebook page that passive-aggressively called out the internet on its collective bad behavior (e.g. “This is Bill. Bill can go out for a meal without posting a picture of his food. Bill knows nobody cares what he has had to eat. Bill is smart. Be like Bill.”) quickly turned into a somewhat controversial trend across many social networks. Thanks to a meme-making site, the template for everyone to make their own Bill messages was made available, and those passive aggressive lessons started to drive some people crazy. But the real sign that #BeLikeBill had become passé? Brands started to #BeLikeBill as well. Twitter is full of companies, TV networks, non-profits and more using Bill to tout their own product/show/cause, which according to Digiday makes “the already-intolerable trend even more so.”

The #Lesson: Hashtags, like any trend, can reach a peak that creates a backlash…and though it may be tempting to “connect with the kids” by making your brand a part of a trending conversation, be wary of co-opting every hashtag that comes along. Because young consumers are wary of brands invading their space and making something fun into yet another marketing ploy. Since jumping on a hashtag can also go horribly awry, it might be better to learn lessons from them but mostly refrain from blatantly using them as quick and thoughtless campaigns.